The Berman-Sherman congressional race in California’s 30th district has been nothing but pure drama.
With millions of dollars pouring into the race, attack ads, and with the two Jewish Democrats, Howard Berman and Brad Sherman’s latest debate making headlines thanks to an unprecedented physical altercation, the entire nation is tuning in to see who will rule San Fernando Valley after November 6.
The Democratic establishment threw its support firmly behind Howard Berman, who has served in Congress since 1983 and in his latest position is the ranking member on the House Foreign Affairs committee. Berman has the backing of both California Senators and most of the Democrats on the states congressional delegation. He even got to ride with the President when Obama came to town for a fundraiser.
But polls are beginning to show that support of top Dems might not be enough. Brad Sherman, sans party support but with an elaborate ground operation, is leading in all the latest polls. Last month, a local poll put Sheman way ahead with 45%, compared to 32% of the voters saying they will support Berman and 23% remaining undecided.
This week the Berman campaign said its polling shows the gap narrowing to 6%, but an internal Sherman polling memo from Tuesday put him in a 51% to 26% lead with 24% undecided.
The key to Sherman’s lead lays primarily in the make up of the district, which, following a recent re-districting decision, consists mainly of Sheman territory. Berman is working hard to introduce himself to voters, but it is an uphill race for a candidate who has not been in a competitive race for 40 years and who is facing a rival, Sherman, known for his close ties with constituents on the ground.
Berman is not done yet. In the latest round of mud slinging, his campaign is now stressing that Sherman’s outburst during the recent debate, for which he apologized, proves he is unfit for office. They are also questioning Sherman’s practice of loaning money to his own campaign and profiting from the interest, which is legal according to congressional funding rules.
With three weeks to the elections and $9 million already spent, no one is ready to throw in the towel. This is one showdown that may get even nastier than it already is.
Nathan Guttman, staff writer, is the Forward’s Washington bureau chief. He joined the staff in 2006 after serving for five years as Washington correspondent for the Israeli dailies Haaretz and The Jerusalem Post. In Israel, he was the features editor for Ha’aretz and chief editor of Channel 1 TV evening news. He was born in Canada and grew up in Israel. He is a graduate of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.